Although the vernal equinox occurred a week ago and our Hawaiian tans have long since faded, there’s nothing like a brief heat wave (It’s been in the 70s but more importantly, what’s that bright disc in the sky?) and a well connected fishmonger to bring the tropics to you. While poke is reminiscent of sashimi or ceviche, it actually is a traditional Hawaiian dish of seasoned raw meat (not always seafood but usually) that now has become more of a salad of sorts sporting different veggies like Mauai onion and tomato in addition to spicy chillies, tangy vinegars, and savory sauces. Since seafood is so abundant and each little town had their own fish market, we got to try many different and varied preparations of poke (aptly named from the Hawaiian verb “to slice or cut”) during our short stay in Kawaii. This particular combination of flavors is actually my fuzzy recall of my favorite poke from a now defunct izakaya and sushi bar in Seattle, we used to go there so often for お任せ omakase (literally to entrust something, basically chef’s choice) that the chef, Taka-san, would literally rub the hubster’s belly and make his decisions from there 😀 I like the balance of flavors here with the bright tart lemon offsetting the richness of the ahi tuna and creaminess of the avocado (a good source of vitamin K and folate and while 75% of the calories come from fats, at least they’re the unsaturated kind). The soy sauce gives you a nice savory depth, the onion provides astringent sweetness, and the toasted sesame seeds add a nutty roundness as well as some texture. Because the flavors are so simple with poke, you can easily switch them out, if lemon isn’t your thing try a couple teaspoons of rice wine vinegar instead or if you want an even richer flavor add 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (a little goes a long way in this instance). You can serve 4 people with this as an appetizer or if you have it with 酢飯 sumeshi (vinegar seasoned sushi rice), 2 main course servings.
Sushi gets grades?
Eating raw fish, while delicious, can be hazardous. Mainly the concern is food-borne illnesses ranging from bacterial contamination to (ick factor alert) parasites. “Sushi grade” fish is a somewhat nebulous phrase that can vary from restaurant to sushi-ya and seafood purveyor to fishmonger but for food safety purposes, the FDA focuses on fish that has either been frozen at -31F (-35C) for at least 15 hours or -4F (-20C) for 7 days as the freezing process kills parasites. So while freshness and quality are part of the equation for working with raw fish, health is also an important factor.
4 oz sushi grade ahi tuna steak, skin and pin bones removed (I used Hawaiian Bigeye Ahi also known as 目撥 mebachi)
2 tsp light soy sauce (I like Yamasa)
1 tbsp Meyer lemon juice or 2 tsp regular lemon juice
1/2 avocado, in 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 small sweet onion, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Trim any gristle or connective tissue and cut ahi into 1-inch cubes.
In a small bowl combine soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame seeds. Add ahi and mix to coat evenly in sauce. Fold in avocado and onion. Let marinate for ~10 minutes. Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée when served with sushi rice in a loose interpretation of 散らし鮨 chirashizushi (“scattered” sushi).
Nutritional information based on an appetizer-sized serving, if served with 1 1/2 c sumeshi as a main course the estimated calorie count is 387 🙂